Your anxiety is impacting your gut, and what to do about it

Anxiety Gut Health

With everyone in lockdown all over the world, many of us are feeling stressed or anxious. Uncertainty at this level is hard to deal with, so it is no wonder people are feeling on edge. Add this to the fact that our normal routines and support networks are disrupted, and you have a recipe for increases in anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.

While you can probably feel the effect of this on your body, what you may not realise is the profound effect on gut health. 

What is important to understand, is that your gut and brain are intrinsically connected. We talk about this in detail in episode 5 of The Shift docu-series called ‘The Brain You Never Knew You Had’

In this episode, we discussed how the calming neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA are both made in your gut, so your microbiome has a huge role to play in how you’re feeling. 

On another level, when we are anxious we’re operating in ‘flight or fight’ mode – this is where your body is in survival mode and your nervous system is in an excitatory state (sympathetic). The opposite of this is called ‘feeding and fornicating’ or ‘rest and digest’. This is when you are calm, and your nervous system is in a quiet and restful state (parasympathetic). This part of your nervous system is needed for your digestion to work well, but it is down regulated when we are feeling stressed and anxious. 

If you’re operating in anxiety and stress day to day, then you will have gut problems. This is how it can show up…

  • Bloating and indigestion
  • Burping or wind
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Loose stools or irregular bowel movements
  • ‘IBS’ type symptoms
  • Increases in food intolerance

These symptoms are often due to a down regulation in the production of stomach acid, enzymes and bile production that can occur when we’re in stress and anxiety. You don’t digest your food properly – and then this partially digested food ends up in your small intestine fermenting and causing bloating, wind and indigestion. Partially digested food is much more likely to cause food intolerance type reactions as well. 

This is why when looking at any gut healing protocol, you must address your stress, anxiety and nervous system function. We have never seen a gut patient at Shift where there was also nervous system elements that needed to be addressed, and we have worked with thousands of people. There are many ways in which you can do this….

  • Bring meditation/relaxation time into your life. 
  • Use exercise and movement to release stress and tension
  • Get out in nature and sit in the sunshine
  • Breathe – take moments during the day to slow and deepen your breathing
  • Use herbal medicines to reduce anxiety and help you to adapt to stress (we can help you with this)
  • See an emotional wellness practitioner to help you with some skills to deal with day to day anxiety and to address some of the subconscious reasons why you may be more reactive to stress

For more on this make sure you listen to episode 5 of The Shift docu-series called ‘The Brain You Never Knew You Had’. You’ll hear from experts such as Dr David Perlmutter, Dr Tom O’Bryan, Dr Vincent Pedre and Dr Leo Galland sharing their expertise on how the gut and brain are intrinsically connected. 

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Katherine Maslen

Author

Hey, I’m Katherine Maslen, naturopath, nutritionist, host of The Shift podcast, author and renegade for health.
Since completing 2 bachelor degrees in health science over 12 years ago, I’ve been helping peeps just like you to be their best through awesome health. I’ve spent most of this time one on one in clinical practice – in the trenches with my clients to navigate them through the minefield that is imperfect health.

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